How To Cash Out $40,000 Worth of Money Orders

One of the questions I get asked the most about manufactured spending is how I manage to cash out so many money orders. While I’ve been churning pretty low numbers for the past few months, things have picked up recently and I’ve purchased around $40,000 worth of Visa gift cards in January alone. Most of them have been liquidated, but as of today I still have $14,000 or so left to unload. Next month, I plan on doing even bigger numbers, in time for one last AAdvantage blowout before the March 22 devaluation goes into effect. So how am I unloading $40,000 worth of gift cards in a post-Bluebird world without getting my bank account shut down? The key is diversification. If you’re looking to cash out money orders in large quantities like I am, there are four options:


Deposit Money Orders Into a Bank Account

A lot of people are losing their sh** over what I originally wrote, so I’ve edited this part. Here’s the gist (without the offending parts): You can make money orders out to yourself and deposit them into your bank account. Any deposit of $10,000 or more gets reported to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). If you intentionally keep deposits under $10,000 to avoid getting reported, you’re partaking in structuring, which is an illegal activity that could result in criminal prosecution. Class dismissed.

Make Credit Card Payments with a Money Order

Most of the time, I unload money orders by paying off credit cards directly at a bank branch. This pretty much limits me to Bank of America and Chase, but occasionally I’ll come across a Citi branch, which enables me to pay off a Citi AAdvantage card. In any case, paying off credit cards with money orders in-branch is very easy. You simply enter the bank’s name into the ‘To’ line (i.e. Chase, Citi, Bank of America) – you might want to confirm with the teller, but usually just the bank name will do. Then sign the line below and enter your address in the last row. Be sure to bring your credit card with you, since the teller needs it to apply the payment to the account. The transaction is quick and gets treated like any other cash payment you’d make at a branch.

I often use money orders to pay off my credit cards as well as accounts belonging to my dad and brother. Occasionally, I’ll have them fill it out and go to the branch themselves, since it might look  suspicious if all the payments on their accounts come from me. Again, it’s about diversifying and making sure all the funds aren’t coming from one place.

Make Money Orders Out to Others

When I’ve exhausted option 1 and 2, I make out a few money orders to immediate family members. They deposit the money orders into their checking accounts and use the funds to make payments on the credit cards I use to purchase Visa gift cards. I do this sparingly – I just gave my brother $2,000 worth of money orders and will be unloading those funds as soon as they post. The reason I don’t like to get other people involved in the process is because I could lose track of how many money orders I’ve given out. It’s also not worth exposing other people to the possibility of account closures, so I do this in moderation.

Of course, you can always use money orders to make payments for actual purchases and services: Make a money order out to your landlord to cover the rent, daycare provider, or any other bill that can’t be covered with a credit card. 

Cash Out Money Orders

I’ve never cashed out a money order directly, but it’s possible to do this at places that cash out checks. The fees are pretty high: Walmart charges $3 for cashing out money orders up to $1,000. Adding this to the gift card and money order purchase fees you’ve already incurred drives up the cost of gift card churning by almost 30%. You might find a place that offers much lower fees for cashing out money orders, but it won’t beat the $0 cost of the other methods outlined above, so I’d only choose this route as a last resort. 

At this point, I’m sticking to unloading money orders through bank deposits, credit card payments, and by occasionally making money orders out to others. 

Which of these methods do you use to unload money orders?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. What are the various places to purchase money orders? Is there a limit to the size of the money order based upon the number of GC’s you can use per transaction?

  2. When you buy money orders how many do you buy at a time and for what amount? Also, how many debit card swipes do you do for each money order? Does this every bring on any suspicions or questions from cashiers?

    • Depends where you go. I frequent Walmart. The number of debit card swipes is limited to 4 per transaction. And then pay the MO fee in cash. This limits you to two $1k MOs per transaction (using $500 VGCs). And yes, it occasionally raises concerns; but most cashiers appear to be OK with it. One once even mumbled a justification herself – something about “work checks”.

      • Laughably bad advice Ariana. Stick to blogging about something you know what you’re blathering about. MS isn’t one of them!

  3. This would scare me to death! Glad you’re able to pull it off! =)

  4. If you can’t pay your credit card with money order directly at the bank’s branch because the nearest one is too far away from you, can you mail them as your payment? just like you would mail your personal check in pre-electronic payments times?
    Isn’t it the same as paying at a branch? In both cases you write money order to your bank, and in both cases you have to give your credit card’s number

    • I have done this before with no issues. it’s the exact same thing as paying with a personal check, just mail in the money order with the payment stub/coupon from your bill

  5. First, I am sad i got into MS late in the game. Second, I have a big chip on my shoulder against Amex for shutting down one of my accounts that we had for years of ‘legit’ high volume activity ($5K a month with business / high spending). I missed out on $4K of rewards from that because of their delay between the spending and awarding rewards. Third, because of that, I LOVE how Amex is going down the tubes – the lost the Costco and Fidelity business besides other things.

    All that said, you shoudl google ‘structuring’. Regardless what the source of those money orders, doing what you are doing is actually worse than filling out the forms.




    Is MS illegal? I don’t think so just stay on the right side of the law. You get all kinds of fed organizations with unlimited resources / looking for notches on their bedposts (especially at the expense of a blogger), you are walking into a minefield. just my 2c

  6. Just wonder have you had successfully purchased any Sunrise Bank issued $500 VGC (gray/silver package) in Walmart using a credit card? I assume your recent goldmine posted in another article is referring to a local Simon Mall? If so, is the $500 VGC you purchased from them also issued by Meta Bank with a PIN that you can unload at local WM to purchase MO? If I am going to a local Simon Mall, is it the customer service desk I should go to purchase these $500 VGC? Thanks for your feedback.

  7. So I understand the concept of getting more out of MS by purchasing gift cards and then churning those through MO’s…but if I am happy using my Capital One Venture card that earns 2X everywhere then is there cause for concern if I just purchase MO’s directly and then payoff the card with those?

  8. Yeah – using money orders to pay my US bank credit card in branch got me shut down forever. Bad advice.

    • To what degree / amount were you paying off USB card in branch? And were you doing it in order to cycle your CL several times a month?

      I ask because I do this regularly, with my 2x USB cards, and my car loan payment. It’s just so easy because there is a USB branch across the street from my office. But if there is a systemic resistance by USB to this payment method, then I’ll scale back.

      I’ve read elsewhere, and it makes total sense ot me, that paying your CC with MOs is less risky than simply depositing them, since they can simply reverse the credit to your CC account if the MO bounces or something. In other words, there’s no risk to them, vs. liquid cash in a checking acct.


  9. Ariana, what you describe in your section entitled: “Deposit Money Orders Into a Bank Account” is by the way you described it, structuring, and a crime.. I would just warn your readers that depositing more than $10k is not against the law, and does generate reports (or at least meet the threshold for reporting requirements). Structuring deposits to stay below $10k, is however a crime. https://www.money-education.com/resources/financial-planning-news-and-blogs/blog/129-structuring-cash-transactions-under-10-000-is-criminal

      • That was the charge they got former Speaker Of The House charged with, not anything else that he may or may not have done. It was quite specifically for structuring. bad idea and very bad advice.

  10. Echoing Trevor and Hans. You might google Dennis Hastert who structured deposits to avoid people finding out that he was paying hush money for long-ago abuse. He’s now awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to structuring — the statute of limitations on the original crime (if such it was) long ago expired.

    • No, your sexism is unwarranted. The info is bad because the described acts are illegal, nothing to do with her gender.

      • It’s not sexist if it’s true. Women aren’t as savvy about finance as men. Hence, stupid posts like this one.

    • More like here’s what happens when misogynists come to the comment sections. That was a disgusting comment and you should focus on addressing your sexism before you continue with MS.

          • Susan, I’m not sure that’s an example I’d be using to justify your case. That might be stupid in its own right – but I got your drift.

        • Have you ever set foot in a bank? Banks and credit unions are 70% women. In most families, the wife handles their finances. Calling it as you see it? Even if you’re blind and CSS, it’s still sexist. I’ve worked in the banking industry for 15 years now and there are plenty of C-level females that I’ve worked with, so it’s not just tellers and branch staff.

        • Hey Tom, can I have your email? I want to make fun of you on Twitter. Better yet, let’s compare bank statements and financial knowledge. I’m willing to bet I make more money than you and have a broader knowledge of investments and savings strategies.

    • Really, Tom? Women aren’t as savvy about money? LOLOL You cannot possibly be that stupid.

  11. Very important to not listen to this post. Structuring is a crime and the author is not clear about what exactly it is. You cannot split up transactions even for convenience sake and have a legal defense. You are setting yourself up for major problems.

  12. You are also setting your brother up for some potentially serious IRS problems and both of you for conspiracy.

    • How so? I used HIS gift cards to purchase money orders that he deposited into HIS account to pay off HIS credit card (which was used to buy the gift cards in the first place). Nothing shady or illegal about that, unless you want to classify gift card churning in general as shady and illegal.

  13. Haha, good luck with your soon to be frozen accounts and potentially seized money by the FBI for structuring. I bet that you have not done this longer than 3 months.

    • You’re making assumptions about my ms habits. Most of the time I don’t end up with anything close to $9k worth of mo’s to unload, so no, I’m not worried about having my accounts frozen.

  14. warum bist du so ein Idiot ? Haben Sie nicht erkennen, noch dafür, dass diese Dinge zu schreiben und diese Schritte wird es enden und ruinieren es für diejenigen, die bereits es zu tun? Du bist ein verdammter Narr und sollte erschossen und durch Ihre Bälle du Arschloch aufgehängt werden ! Stoppen Sie profitieren mehr als andere durch touting die wenigen verbliebenen Dinge, die Arbeit in diesem Zeug zu tun. Wenn ich Sie finden werde ich dich verprügeln und pissen auf Sie . Sie saugen und sollte auf dem Scheiterhaufen verbrannt werden !

  15. Ich überarbeiten diese hinzufügen, dass , da Sie eine Frau Blogger sind , sollten Sie Ihre Fotze herausgezogen und aufgeschmolzen über einer offenen Flamme . Das wäre vielleicht zu lehren Sie die fuck up geschlossen !

  16. Where is any response from Ariana? It is not helpful for everyone else to comment without her input. It is disappointing that she throws out a post and then does not bother to tackle even one question.

  17. Making a payment to a credit card in someone else’s name from your funds is essentially giving them a gift. Get over 12k a yr and some is going to owe taxes on the total above 12k. Do not pay off someone else’s credit card with funds from your accounts. The horrid advice here is mind boggling on many levels.

    • How is it horrid? She gave her brother a money order (like you’d give someone a check) to deposit and pay his credit card. That’s not “paying off someone else’s credit card with funds from your accounts.”

  18. If you give someone money and its not for a service, its a gift. If its $100 or something no one cares. If its $3k a month or every few weeks its a gift. Above 12k a yr and the IRS can come after you for taxes for that gift.

  19. You mentioned that WM will cash out MOs for $3 for amounts up to $1000. I have tried this at several WMs in different states for a while now and it’s a no go. Either I’m just unlucky or it’s their policy not to cash out MOs. If you have tried it and succeeded, please let us know. TIA

    • Thanks for the heads up Tazznum. Their website states that they do cash checks and money orders issued by WM. What exactly did the cashier say?

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